One of the strangest stories in the Old Testament is the story of Elijah running from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. The reason that it strikes me as odd is that it is such a mix of the natural and the supernatural. Let me set the stage.
Elijah had just done some of the most well-known miracles in the Old Testament. He had confronted 400 priests of Baal, called fire down from heaven, and killed all the priests. And then he told Ahab that God was going to send down rain, and broke the drought that was over Israel. After all of this, Jezebel threatens Elijah and Elijah just snaps. He goes into the wilderness, sits under a tree, and prays that he would die.
Then an angel shows up. Now understand the sort of power that we are dealing with when we speak of angels. The Bible records an angel cutting down 185,000 Assyrians in one night. (2 Kings 19:35) It would not be hard at all for the angel to go, cut down Jezebel, and all the armies of Israel with her. But the angel doesn’t do this.
Instead, the angel seems to give help that was not all that helpful. The angel gives Elisha bread and water, and Elisha sleeps. Elisha wakes up, and he is given more bread and water. That was the help. Spectacular? Hardly. But it was what Elijah needed.
Now maybe the food was not like regular food, Elisha did go 40 days in the strength of that food. But it does strike me how “normal” the means of grace to Elijah was. Elijah wanted to die and he was worn out, and I think those two things, at least in some respect, were intertwined.
Which I think tells us something about ourselves. I am convinced that at some level, most of us forget that we are human, and that there are limitations that come with that. We forget that the physical world affects us in ways that are not immediately obvious. I remember having a similar “Elisha” moment, albeit considerably less dramatic.
It was when I was in law school. First, you need to understand first that I went into law school not knowing what the legal profession was like, what type of law that I wanted to practice, or even really why I wanted to practice law. So naturally, I found myself in the office of my academic advisor. I remember trying to tell her the type of law I thought I was interested in (which is hard when you have no idea) and how my faith interacted with the law (and also botched that horribly). I remember coming back to my apartment with such a sense of despair. What was I doing? Why was I here? Was law school a mistake? I sat on my couch, ate way too many bowls of cereal (my comfort food of choice) and fell asleep. But strangely, when I woke up, life didn’t seem so bleak.
Nothing in my situation had changed. I still didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going, still did not have any relevant experience, still was a bad evangelist-but I was full and a little less sleep deprived. And even now, that’s a piece in my Christian life that I need to remember. Physical things that I think don’t affect me, really affect me. It’s part of the experience of being an embodied creature. And God gives us grace in our weakness, because he knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us anyway.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.